By: Kobe Lambeth
2016 is going to be a BIG year for Mazda Motorsports, as they say, goodbye to their diesel package and hello to a new turbo powered engine designed to give them a better chance at winning races in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship. I had the pleasure of asking one of their drivers a few questions about Mazda’s chances in this upcoming season.
Mazda factory driver, Tristan Nunez said, “We are all very excited for the 2016 season. The amount of work that everyone has put in during the offseason and the end of last season surely will pay off in the long run.”
The entire team might be in for a special season after spending the past two years with the diesel-powered prototype. Mazda has the potential to turn some heads in 2016 but that is not the only thing to consider. With the new LMP2 rules in 2017 and the allowance of IMSA engines to Le Mans under a Balance of Performance process, could we possibly see Mazda Motorsports bring a car to the 24 Hours of Le Mans?
Nunez said, “At the moment, we are focusing on what’s right in front of us. Starting with the 24, but I it has been a dream of mine to go to Le Mans ever since I started racing and it would be an honor to do it with Mazda. They’ve made dreams come true before and who’s to say they can’t do it again!”
Hopefully, Nunez and Mazda Motorsports will make the trip across the pond to France within the next few years. Two different powerplants for Mazda in past years made me question the similarities and differences between the engines. Luckily, Nunez has driven both diesel and gasoline-powered prototypes and gave a simple description.
“You really can’t compare it. They are two completely different power plants. Each has its own unique characteristic. It’s been a blast to get the chance to drive both.”
As the season is about to begin, I am wondering if Mazda’s new engine will make them competitive against the dominant Daytona Prototypes.
Nunez said, “It’s hard to say. You can’t really know until the race, but we have a completely different mindset this year. Our goal is to go out there and win races.”
Based on lap times set at the Roar, it appears that Mazda will give Michael Shank Racing, Deltawing, and the Daytona Prototypes great battles! However, the main question is “how reliable can the car be?” That question will be answered on January 30th when the green flag flies! Mazda has been working to ensure that 2016 will be a memorable season.
Nunez said, “The guys at the shop have been working their tails off practicing pit stops, as well as going over every piece of the car to make sure it’s perfect. The drive that those guys have is inspiring, which pushed me to better myself as a driver too.”
Trust me, hard work will pay off and we should see Mazda competing for overall victories this season. As the team is preparing for the season opener, Tristan Nunez told me how he prepares for every race.
“Taking some time to myself to pray about an hour before I get in the car, then when I’m in the car waiting for the command to start the engines, I like to get a beat in my head and play the air drums. It’s been something that always calms my nerves.”
An awesome way to prepare for intense sportscar races! Nunez has a few inspiring individuals in his life that help him continue to strive for the best. I hope Tristan continues to follow his dreams as life is good being a young factory driver for a popular manufacturer.
“Without the support I had from my parents to pursue my dreams, I would never be where I am today. Also, having Derek Bell as a personal friend and mentor is truly something special.”
*Special thanks to Klint Briney for making this interview possible. Good luck to Tristian Nunez and the entire Mazda Motorsports team as they go on a brand new adventure in 2016!*